Clerk all dressed up with no one to wed

In this farm town about 70 miles north of Sacramento, Colusa County Clerk Kathleen Moran carefully prepared for the big day.

When the doors to her office swung open at 8:30 a.m., she waited. And waited some more.

“We’re ready for it,” Moran said, expectant even as the morning ticked away.

But not a same-sex couple was to be wed, nor a protester seen.


In the weeks leading up to Day One, Moran and her staff rewrote the brief script they use for marriage ceremonies, replacing the gender-specific terms “husband” and “bride” with the word “spouse.”

They also had a 45-minute “heart to heart”: Would anyone, Moran asked, be troubled carrying out the duties involved with a same-sex marriage? They told her not to worry. “They felt it was just part of the job,” Moran said.

She said she had received calls from same-sex marriage foes warning against overseeing the ceremonies. She told the callers -- all, she said, from out of town -- that her role wasn’t to make the laws but to carry them out.

“I explained that we’re really not the level for anyone to be protesting at,” she said, sitting inside the county’s Greek-revival courthouse before bound volumes of records dating to Colusa’s establishment in 1850.

Last year, Moran and her deputy clerks issued 111 licenses and presided over 50 civil ceremonies.

Colusa County, like most in the state’s agricultural heartland, is conservative and voted against same-sex marriage in 2000. Yet it’s also a live-and-let-live kind of place, said Moran, clerk for two decades.

Outwardly gay couples aren’t a visible part of life in Colusa, Moran said, but she expects at least a few to appear at her front counter seeking a marriage certificate -- even though no couples at all showed up Tuesday.

“This is a place where you better coexist,” she said. “Eventually you’re going to run into just about everyone at the grocery store.”

-- Eric Bailey